Today's Tidbit: Money Can't Buy Everything

Money Can't Buy Everything

Legal Services

A group of lawyers refused to provide legal services to needy AARP members for $30 per hour, but when asked to do it for free, they readily agreed.

Nuclear Waste Storage

The Swiss needed a place to store their nuclear waste. Lacking Yucca Mountain, they surveyed the 2,100 residents of Wolfenschiessen and found that 51% would accept the dump site out of civic responsibility.

Hoping to up the acceptance rate, a new survey was done but this time the deal was sweetened with an annual monetary incentive of as high as $8,700 to be paid to each resident. The acceptance rate then fell from 51% to 25%.


Wolfenschiessens refuse to be bribed.


While Mellstrom and Johannesson have found that male willingness to donate blood is unaffected by monetary compensation, they found that when females are offered monetary compensation their willingness to donate drops from 52% to 30%.

The two authors conjecture that this is because of "women being more concerned with social esteem than men".


  • What Money Can't Buy, 2012 book by Michael Sandel, pages 115-25
  • "The Old Lady Visits Your Backyard: A Tale of Morals and Markets" by Bruno S. Frey, Felix Oberholzer-Gee, and Reiner Eichenberger, Journal of Political Economy 104, no. 6 (December 1996): 1297-1313
  • "The Cost of Price Incentives: An Empirical Analysis of Motivation Crowding-Out", by Bruno S. Frey and Felix Oberholzer-Gee, American Economic Review 87, no. 4 (September 1997): 746-55
  • Predictably Irrational, 2000 book by Dan Ariely
  • The Gift Relationship, 1970 book by Richard Titmuss
  • "Blood Money", by Charles C. Johnson, October 2, 2009, AEI Online
  • "Crowding Out in Blood Donation: Was Titmuss Right?", by Carl Mellström & Magnus Johannesson, 2008, Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 6(4), pages 845-863
  • Bénabou, Roland, and Jean Tirole (2006). "Incentives and Prosocial Behavior." American Economic Review 96, 1652-1678

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